By Dan Harrison
---- — The Endicott College football team will make its second NCAA Division 3 playoff appearance in four years Saturday when it travels to Glassboro, N.J. to face Rowan University at noon.
The initial inclination for Gulls fans is to find out everything there is to know about the Profs of Rowan University (8-2). The Endicott players, however, are sticking with what’s worked for them this season — staying focused on their own team.
“I think the reason we are where we’re at is we’ve been doing a good job of focusing on ourselves,” said Endicott (8-2) head coach J.B. Wells. “Our success has come from our guys focusing on Endicott. When you ask our guys who their biggest opponent is, they always say themselves.”
The Gulls have two big advantages heading into Saturday’s kickoff. First and foremost, the team has been there before; the Gulls lost in the first round of the NCAAs to Cortland in 2010, so they knows the postseason atmosphere as well as how to handle the week of preparation leading up to the actual contest.
Second, Endicott just played a championship game this past week when it defeated Salve Regina in a showdown where the winner took home the New England Football Conference Division 3 Championship and was ensured a spot in the NCAAs.
“(The 2010 experience) already paid dividends in knowing what to expect this week. We’re not babes in the woods anymore; we should be much better prepared to get on the bus and go down to play this game,” said Wells. “We played a championship level game with championship level excitement and anticipation last week, so it feels like they know how to handle this. We’re going to go down and hopefully play our best game of the year.”
Rowan is a tough, physical football team that actually defeated the two teams Endicott lost to this season in Framingham State and Kean.
The Profs average 21 points per game offensively while surrendering 17.3 on defense. They’ve rushed for 160 yards per game and 15 total touchdowns while throwing, on average, for 138.6 yards per game and 11 touchdowns on the season.
Defensively, Rowan has allowed 109.6 rushing yards (10 total TDs) and 213.6 passing yards per game (13 total TDs). The passing numbers should give Gulls fans some serious hope, considering the team’s best offensive player and the NEFC’s Offensive Player of the Year is quarterback Drew Frenette.
A junior, Frenette has passed for 2,502 yards while completing well over 50 percent of his passes including 24 touchdowns. Maybe the most impressive thing about Frenette’s season is he has thrown only three interceptions.
“I think any coach will tell you when you don’t give the ball to the other team and keep it for yourself, you have the opportunity to score more points,” said Wells, who was named the NEFC Coach of the Year. “And Drew is a helluva quarterback. He’s extremely accurate and can pick apart a defense if you give him a little time. He’s the key to our success.”
On the flip side, Endicott prides itself on getting turnovers from its defensive backfield. The Gulls have 14 interceptions led by NEFC First Team All-Conference defensive backs Jason Silva (4 INTs) and Jake Cox (3). The other two starting defensive backs, Davas Wright and Andrew Lawson, have two each.
“Our back end has been real good. Our secondary is as good as any out there,” noted Wells. “We have that kind of talent back there where we’re able to ballhawk. In games where we’ve been extremely successful, there have been a couple key turnovers that led to points for us on offense.”
Wells did mention the importance of the pass rush in getting those interceptions as guys like Marcell Cooper and Andrew Holfinger —both named First Team All-Conference — have gotten consistent pressure on opposing signal callers.
The other guy to watch for defensively for Endicott is Beverly native and Second Team All-Conference linebacker Nick Kozlowski, who leads the team in tackles with 89 (including 45 solo takedowns).
An interception could be huge in terms of momentum, but the Gulls need to stop Rowan’s rushing attack, led by Withler Marcelin who has 1,233 yards and nine TDs.